As rumored yesterday, Capitals goaltending coach Arturs Irbe will part ways with the team when his contract runs out this month, reportedly to spend more time with his family.

Whatever the circumstances around Irbe’s departure, it is clear the Capitals are losing a talented coach who spent the last two seasons shaping three stellar prospects into NHL goalies.

Change breeds change, and Irbe’s departure may be the domino that sets in motion a shuffling of personnel amongst the Caps’ net-minders.  While Varlamov has had flashes of brilliance, including at the 2011 Winter Classic, it was clear in the second half of the season that Neuvirth was Boudreau’s first choice when healthy.

Here are a few scenarios that could play out, some more likely than others, by the time the Caps take the ice in Baltimore for their first pre-season game:

Note: Salary figures are NHL cap hits, ages are as of opening night of 2011-12 season.

Scenario A – Status Quo
If things stay as they are, this is at least how things will look when the Caps break camp.  With Todd Ford and Danny Sabourin  unrestricted free agents, it’s likely Hershey would sign a veteran goaltender to tandem with Holtby.  Grubauer, a 2010 draft pick, will be AHL-eligible this season, but could spend another year in the CHL, bringing down that GAA.

  1. Michal Neuvirth, 23  (38-17-4,  91.3 SV%, 2.55 GAA, 4 SO) – $1.15M
  2. Semyon Varlamov, 23  (30-13-12, 91.7 SV%, 2.39 GAA, 4 SO) – $821,667/RFA

Braden Holtby, 22  (10-2-2, 93.4 SV%), 1.79 GAA, 2 SO) – $637,777
Philipp Grubauer, 20 (22-13-3, 90.3 SV%, 3.64 GAA, 2 SO) – $611,666

Scenario B – Varly to KHL/Caps don’t match RFA offer
It seems unlikely, but rumors do exist that Semyon Varlamov could return to his homeland and play next season in the K.  If the Caps are unable to keep the RFA on their soil, with the glut of talent already here it would seem unlikely they’d make an immediate move for another goaltender.  There is also the possibility that another NHL club could snap up the restricted free agent if the Caps aren’t willing to match whatever offer he receives.  In the event that Holtby is in D.C. full-time, the Bears would certainly need to re-sign one of their veteran goalies or grab one off the market.

  1. Michal Neuvirth – $1.15M
  2. Braden Holtby – $637,777

Philipp Grubauer –

Scenario C – Neuvy Traded?!
This will certainly be an unpopular notion, but hear me out.  Sure, Neuvy put the team on his back for long stretches of ’10-’11.  He never seems to be rattled, and bears a striking resemblance to Hello Kitty.  Dealing Neuvirth would be a controversial move, but think about it, when do you want to trade a player?  A lot of fans talked about trading Varlamov near the deadline last season, but why trade a player who can’t prove he can stay healthy and maybe doesn’t even want to be playing in North America?  How much will you really get in return for him.  Considering the investment the Capitals have made in Varly’s development, it’s hard to imagine getting more than $.60 on the dollar for SV1.  If the Caps could come to an RFA agreement for this season with Varly and allow Braden Holtby to get a full plate of NHL work this season, losing Neuvy would be big but not catastrophic.  Plus, the Capitals could get a lot more value in return from teams looking for their future in net (New Jersey?)

  1. Semyon Varlamov – $821,667/RFA
  2. Braden Holtby – $637,777

Philipp Grubauer – $611,666


What scenario do you want to see?  What seems most likely?  What other possibilities could we seen in ’11-’12?